There are the baby blues, and then there’s depression. Knowing the difference can be tough. But researchers say getting help is a priority, especially when you consider the devastating immediate and long-term impact of maternal depression, particularly on young children’s development and school readiness.
Risks before, after giving birth
The risks can start even before a baby is born. If a pregnant woman is too depressed to access medical care, there’s a higher chance her baby will be born too early or too small. That can have life-long health and developmental consequences for the child.
After giving birth, a mother’s untreated depression can lead a baby to be passive and withdrawn – at just the time in that baby’s brain development when he should be engaged and stimulated. Toddlers, meanwhile, may become passive or dependent, may be less creative and suffer cognitively.
And the impact of untreated depression can extend into the school-age years, leading children to misbehave, be anxious, suffer from attention deficit disorders and have lower IQs.
However you look at it, your baby needs you.
So how can you tell if it's time to reach out for help?
Look for these clues:
- Changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns
- Lack of energy
- Feelings of great sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness
- Crying for no reason
- Feeling little interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Feelings of inadequacy or not being able to meet the basic needs of your infant
- Extreme anxiety or panic
- Having trouble making decisions
- Feeling out of control
- If you or someone you know needs help, please talk to your doctor or call Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, an organization for pregnant women, new moms and their young families, funded by Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County. Healthy Mothers hosts Circle of Moms support groups, as well as other services to help new moms.
- Healthychildren.org, a website created by the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Caring for Kids, a website created by Canadian pediatricians
- Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health